The following content originally appeared in the article by Anne Field on CreditCards.com on May 25, 2017.
Credit debt pitfalls for later-in-life marriages
When people marry later in life, they face a wide range of financial complications younger couples don’t. And that’s as true for credit card use as anything else.
The reasons partly have to do with numbers. CreditCards.com resesarch has consistently found people age 50 and older have credit cards more often than younger people.
But more than that, there are all those complexities that arise simply from having lived longer: two individuals with their own long-standing, well-established spending habits and histories, not to mention offspring from previous marriages. Plus, if you are approaching retirement – or have already reached that stage of life – there’s less time to bounce back financially from any setback.
“Later in life you often have a set of obligations
that have nothing to do with the other person you marry.”
Financial pitfalls of late-in-life marriages
Marrying later in lfe means you have had plenty of time to set your financial habits, enter into complicated arrangements and make mistakes. Here are a few examples:
Different attitudes toward credit card use and debt. Attitudes toward credit cards can vary widely, and you can’t assume your new mate uses plastic the way you do. One spouse may have spent a lifetime regularly revolving a balance from one month to the next, while the other always pays off the bill in total and finds it troubling to have any debt.
“Some people use their cards for emergencies; some use them instead of cash,” says Lili Vasileff, a financial adviser in Greenwich, Connecticut, who specializes in divorce. Once they’ve tied the knot, she says, spouses quickly realize if their new partner approaches credit card usage differently, and it can cause tension.
Credit card debt related to offspring and exes. “Later in life you often have a set of obligations that have nothing to do with the other person you marry,” says Lauren Klein, president of Klein Financial Advisors in Newport Beach, California.
First, there’s the matter of children, particularly offspring who are grown-up. One – or both – new spouses may be helping out adult children. “It’s not uncommon for parents to go into debt for their kids, co-signing a student loan, lending money for a business, helping during a spate of unemployment,” says Lynnette Khalfani-Cox, a personal finance expert and president of TheMoneyCoach.net.
While one spouse may feel obligated to help her children, the other may feel differently. “That other spouse may be more reluctant to assume these debts because it’s not even their child,” says Rosemary Frank, who heads Rosemary Frank Financial, a financial advisory firm in Brentwood, Tennessee.
More complex are issues related to an ex-spouse’s debts. For example, if a new husband had been married before, he may be legally responsible for his former wife’s credit card debt, per their divorce decree, says Khalfani-Cox.
What’s more, no matter what a divorce decree requires, credit card companies can still come after the primary or joint account holder.